O Antiphons: Day Two, O Adonai, and Leader of the House of Israel


Roberto Rivera

For over a thousand years, Christians have sung the O Antiphons in the days leading up to Christmas. Together they comprise a hymn that centers our attention on the glories of Advent and the Incarnation.

From the 17th to the 23rd, we will be sharing the day’s verse along with a short meditation by members of the Colson Center staff.


O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,

who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush

and gave him the law on Sinai:

Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.


In Deuteronomy 18, Moses told the Israelites that the Lord (Adonai in Hebrew) one day “will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people” and that they should “heed such a prophet.” But, as the second O Antiphon reminds us, the Lord didn’t send a “prophet like Moses”—He sent “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” who “upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

He didn’t send someone who would see a burning bush—He sent the One who caused the bush to burn. He didn’t send a human vessel through whom He would teach his people the Law—He sent the divine lawgiver Himself.

The second O antiphon brings us face to face with the central mystery of our faith: the Incarnation. Names like “Root of Jesse,” “Wisdom,” “Key of David,” and even “King of the Nations” could have been attached to a purely human messiah. In fact, that was the expectation.

But Adonai is different. For Second Temple Jews, there was only one Adonai, and He was One. They expected Him to end the exile that began with the destruction of the first temple six centuries before, but not in person.

Yet that’s what happened. Even when the New Testament calls Jesus “Lord,” it is using the Greek word kyrios, which is how the Septuagint translated Adonai. This wasn’t a coincidence. It was a confession that the God who revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush had once again seen the affliction of his people and come down to rescue them.

That being the case, heeding Him isn’t enough. Only worship will do.


[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series. For the first, click here.]

Roberto Rivera is a Senior Writer and Fellow at the Colson Center.


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